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April cargo volumes are mixed at Port of Los Angeles and Port of Long Beach

Logistics Management

While cargo volumes at the Port of Los Angeles (POLA) and the Port of Long Beach (POLB) went in different directions in April, one thing they had in common was that they each are working through the backlog caused by the nine-month West Coast port labor dispute between the Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore & Warehouse Union that reached a tentative agreement in late February.

Total POLA volumes in April were down 6.1 percent compared to April 2014 at 662,973 TEU (Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units).

POLA imports, which are primarily comprised of consumer goods, were off 9.9 percent at 328,140 TEU, and exports fell 15.8 percent to 145,655 TEU. Empties were up 12 percent.

POLA officials said that the annual decline in cargo was due to April 2014 being “particularly robust as importers advanced inventory due to concerns about labor negotiations later in the year,” coupled with vessel alliance uncertainties this past April, with shipping lines returning to Transpacific rotations.

On a year-to-date basis, total volumes are down 5.3 percent at POLA at 2,486,927 TEU

April volumes at POLB moved up 7.9 percent annually at 614,860, which marked its highest cargo activity for the month of April going back to 2006.

Imports saw a 7.3 percent annual jump to 317,376 TEU, with exports down 6.1 percent to 137,546 TEU, while empties rose 25.3 percent to 159,938 TEU.

In April, the terminals were also working through the backlog left over from the winter’s congestion in San Pedro Bay,” POLB officials said. “By the end of the month, no more container ships were waiting at anchor to come into the Port of Long Beach.”

Through the first four months of the year, cargo numbers at POLA are essentially flat, with a 0.3 percent decline compares to the first four months of 2015.

As previously reported, the most recent edition of the Port Tracker report from the National Retail Federation (NRF) and maritime consultancy Hackett Associates painted a positive picture, with import cargo levels at U.S.-based retail container ports slowly getting back to normal levels.

This comes ahead of a May 22 ratification vote of a new West Coast port labor agreement between the concerns.

The West Coast port labor disruption was a major driver for low export volumes at both ports, as was evidenced by the U.S. trade deficit reaching a six-year high in April, according to data from the Department of Commerce. Imports overall were higher than usual, due to pent-up demand related to the labor situation, with exports up less than 1 percent during the same period.

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